Monday, August 30, 2010

Are Christians meant to feel guilty all the time?

I saw this article on someone else's blog today and thought it was really good. I definitely needed to read this today. It has encouraged me to strive to be more Christ-like, not to "be better" at being a Christian. There is much joy in thinking this way. I am growing and not ashamed that I'm not a perfect Christ-follower. By God's magnificent grace I am being made more like Him everyday. No guilt, just joy in Christ!

Here you are folks:

I imagine there are plenty of Christians who rarely feel the sting of conscience or the pangs of regret. But I also know many, many Christians (including the one I see in the mirror) who easily feel bad for all the things they are not doing or are doing less than perfectly. In fact, I’m convinced most serious Christians live their lives with an almost constant low-level sense of guilt.

How do we feel guilty? Let me count the ways.
  • We could pray more.
  • We aren’t bold enough in evangelism.
  • We like sports too much.
  • We watch movies and television too often.
  • Our quiet times are too short or too sporadic.
  • We don’t give enough.
  • We bought a new couch.
  • We don’t read to our kids enough.
  • Our kids eat Cheetos and french fries
  • We don’t recycle enough.
  • We need to lose 20 pounds.
  • We could use our time better.
  • We could live some place harder or in something smaller.
What do we do with all this behind the scenes guilt? We don’t feel stop-dead-in-our-tracks kind of remorse for these things. But these shortcomings can have a cumulative effect whereby even the mature Christian can feel like he’s rather disappointing to God, maybe just barely Christian.

Here’s the tricky part: we should feel guilty sometimes, because sometimes we are guilty of sin. Moreover, complacency as Christians is a real danger, especially in America.

But yet, I don’t believe God redeemed us through the blood of his Son that we might feel like constant failures. Do Peter and John post-Pentecost seem racked with self-loathing and introspective fear? Does Paul seem constantly concerned that he could be doing more? Amazingly enough, Paul actually says at one point “I am not aware of anything against myself” (1 Cor. 4:4). He’s quick to add, “I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me.” But it sure seems like Paul put his head on the pillow at night with a clean conscience. So why do so many Christian feel guilty all the time?

1. We don’t fully embrace the good news of the gospel. We forget that we have been made alive together with Christ. We have been raised with him. We have been saved through faith alone. And this is the gift of God, not a result of works (Eph. 2:4-8). We can be so scared of antinomianism, which is a legitimate danger, that we are afraid to speak too lavishly of God’s grace. But if we’ve never been charged with being antinomian, we probably haven’t presented the gospel in all its scandalous glory (Rom. 6:1).

2. Christians tend to motivate each other by guilt rather than grace. Instead of urging our fellow believers to be who they are in Christ, we command them to do more for Christ (see Rom. 6:5-14 for the proper motivation). So we see Christ likeness as something we are royally screwing up, when we should it as something we already possess but need to grow into.

3. Most of our low-level guilt falls under the ambiguous category of “not doing enough.” Look at the list above. None one of the items are necessarily sinful. They all deal with possible infractions, perceptions, and ways in which we’d like to do more. These are the hardest areas to deal with because no Christian, for example, will ever confess to praying enough. So it is always easy to feel terrible about prayer (or evangelism or giving or any number of disciplines). We must be careful that we don’t insist on a certain standard of practice when the Bible merely insists on a general principle.

Let me give another example. Every Christian must give generously and contribute to the needs of the saints (2 Cor. 9:6-11; Rom. 12:13). This we can insist on with absolute certainty. But what this generosity looks like–how much we give, how much we retain–is not bound by any formula, nor can it be exacted by compulsion (2 Cor. 9:7). So if we want people to be more generous we would do well to follow Paul’s example in 2 Corinthians and emphasize the blessings of generosity and the gospel rooted motivation for generosity as opposed to shaming those who don’t give us much.

4. When we are truly guilty of sin it is imperative we repent and receive God’s mercy. Paul had a clean conscience, not because he never sinned, but, I imagine, because he quickly went to the Lord when he knew he was wrong and rested in the “no condemnation” of the gospel (Rom. 8:1). If we confess our sins, John says, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). We aren’t meant to feel borderline miserable all the time. We are meant to live in the joy of our salvation. So when we sin–and we’ll all sin (1 Kings 8:46; 1 John 1:8)–we confess it, get cleansed, and move on.

This underlines one of the great dangers with constant guilt: we learn to ignore our consciences. If we are truly sinning, we need to repent and implore the Lord to help us change. But if we aren’t sinning, if we are perhaps not as mature as we could be, or are not as disciplined as some believers, or we are making different choices that may be acceptable but not extraordinary, then we should not be made to feel guilty. Challenged, stirred, inspired, but not guilty.

As a pastor this means I don’t expect that everyone in my congregation should feel awful about everything I ever preach on. It is ok, after all, for people to actually be obedient to God’s commands. Not perfectly, not without some mixed motives, not as fully as they could be, but still faithfully, God-pleasingly obedient. Faithful preaching does not require that sincere Christians feel miserable all the time. In fact, the best preaching ought to make sincere Christians see more of Christ and experience more of his grace.

Deeper grace will produce better gratitude, which means less guilt. And that’s a good thing all the way around.

By Kevin DeYoung

Good huh?

Saturday, August 28, 2010

New Saturday Reads!

Saturdays make me so ecstatic. There are so many wonderful things that await me every weekend. Usually I do laundry and clean the house in the morning, but then the rest of the day is full of fun. On this rainy day my new books are calling my name. Nothing makes me quite so happy as a new book. Mmm, I love the smell of new books and the crisp white pages that are so clean and unmarked (although they will soon have notes and highlights all over them).

This past Thursday, a couple of my girl friends started a Bible/ book study and girls night out group. This week was the first time we met, so we went to Barnes and Noble to pick out something to discuss in our meetings. Here is what I picked up that night:

This is such a cute little bathroom book!

It has adorable illustrations inspired by Jane Austen's works...

and quotes as well.

I also found a book full of C.S Lewis classics that I didn't have. I'm looking forward to re-reading them.

We decided to go through Radical by David Platt. I read it just a few weeks ago, but I'm certainly not opposed to going through it again! I am looking forward to our girls time in two weeks! It will be great to make some closer friends here.

We will also be going over this book in our mentor groups with the youth. I can't wait to start!

I better get to reading!

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Beloved Ivories

The Piano.

I can hardly articulate what I experience when my fingers touch the keys. Its like I am awakened in a different way. I breathe deeply, feel deeply. I lose myself. When I feel things that can't be spoken, the music I play voices them without words. Its beautiful. Sadly, my hands don't have the pleasure of making music as much as I would like anymore. During my college days, the piano practice rooms were often my late evening haunt. All my frustrations, worries, fears, joys, delights and praises were poured out there and transformed.

Today, my heart is full. I just want to find a piano in the middle of an obscure field. And play. I want to play, until the sun sets behind me and dusk covers me. Give me my beloved ivories. My soul needs them today.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Something In The Water

Check out this new song by Brooke Fraser! I heard it on the radio this morning and it's been stuck in my head ever since. I also found out she has a new CD coming out this November called Flags. If its anything like her last album, it will be another one I have to add to my collection.

Enjoy. It will bring cheer to your day. Promise.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Quality Quotes

C.S. Lewis
(1898 – 1963)

Have I ever mentioned that I adore C.S. Lewis? Every time I pick up one of his works it's like spending time with an beloved old friend. I have read several biographies on him and a plethora of his writings. Every time I read something with his name on it, I come away with new found insights and things on which to ponder. He certainly was a man of unparalleled genius. He shied away from Christianity for years on account of one of his atheist professors in college and various life experiences. However, he later became what he called "the most dejected and reluctant convert." If there was one chance in a million that Jesus was right in saying that he was the only way, he couldn't take that chance. After years of searching for the truth, he did indeed find the Truth. God certainly used this brilliant man and his eloquent and thought-provoking words to impact many a generation.

So without further ado, here are some new-found quotes from Lewis that inspired me today:

  • "God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world." - The Problem of Pain

  • "You cannot go on 'explaining away' for ever: you will find that you have explained explanation itself away. You cannot go on 'seeing through' things for ever. The whole point of seeing through something is to see something through it." - C.S. Lewis

  • "My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust?" - Mere Christianity

  • "I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: 'I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept His claim to be God.' That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic -- on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg -- or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to." – Mere Christianity, pages 40-41.

  • "Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art, like the universe itself (for God did not need to create). It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival."- C.S. Lewis

  • "Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of - throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself." - C.S. Lewis (Mere Christianity)

  • "I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity." - C.S. Lewis (I love this one!)

  • "It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased." - C.S. Lewis (Weight of Glory and Other Addresses)

  • "To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you." - C.S. Lewis

  • "You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you." - C.S. Lewis

Ok, so I could go on and on with good quotes from Lewis, but that is because his works are so wonderful! If you haven't picked up a book by Lewis, I highly encourage you to do so. Next I think I want to read his book Reflection on the Psalms. Mmm, I can't wait!

Monday, August 16, 2010

So when do we move in?

When I was little, my sister and I loved to look at all the pretty pictures from my mom's old Better Homes and Gardens magazines. As we looked through them we'd cut out our favorites, paste them in a spiral bound note book, and thus make our own version of a "Dream Home." It was an eclectic combination to say the least! I remember having two or three different houses in very exotic locations with room enough for all my friends and family. I still keep a similar note book of sorts in my head. When I see something I love about a home, I usually put it in my "dream house" memory file.

These days my "dream house" differs quite a bit from the ones my sister and I created years ago. What I dream about has evolved a bit. For starters, I don't have a whole room devoted to my dog Ribbons and I have since added a kitchen. I don't remember a kitchen even crossing my mind when designing my old dream homes.

So for the sake of reminiscing, here are some bits and pieces of my current "dream house" in my mind's notebook:

Of course I can't leave out Mr. Darcy's mansion. I mean for goodness sakes, I am a girl!

But the past few years, I dream more about a quaint cottage than anything else. I don't want something big, just a cozy place immersed in nature.

It is perfect in every way...

It has a little reading nook by the fireplace...

 A cozy living area...

Vintage details...

A lovely, clean bathroom that never gets dirty...

A quaint bedroom overlooking some spectacular scenery like this...

or this...

A "just big enough" kitchen that cleans up on its own after I cook fantastic meals...

A dinning room that also has a pretty view for me to gaze upon as I drink my morning coffee...

One of these...

And something like this in the garden area...

A fabulous deck for a small boat...

A dinning area in the garden...

And last, but not least...a TREE HOUSE!

Perfect for romantic getaways in our own back yard.

Now that you've visited, you have to admit this is the most perfect "dream house" you've ever seen. Yep, cue the heavy sigh. Of course if we actually lived here I don't think I'd ever want leave home, so maybe it is a good thing we don't. Or might that be a good thing? Hmm.


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